How will you remember President Mills?

Regardless of the close-shave victory with which President Mills entered office, he is still in his element, distinguishing himself as the most tolerant President we’ve so far had. Despite the open bad-mouthing and pointed affront to his authority and personality, he has refused to use the vast powers at his disposal to prove where naked power lies (contrary to what some of his predecessors did to provide the template by which Ghanaians construct the office of the Head of State). You know what I am alluding to here.

For three years now, President Mills has been at the helm of affairs, leading the efforts to formulate and implement policies and programmes for national development. In doing so, his government’s acts of omission and commission have given us enough food for thought.

In many ways, President Mills has aroused public interest or concern, depending on what particular issue is at issue about him. To his admirers, he is a man of peace (“Asomdweehene), God-fearing, and humble—a “Father-for-all” whose self-denial and reluctance to rule with an iron fist portray him as a President-with-a-difference. They appreciate the enormity of the challenges facing him and cite the load of problems inherited from previous administrations to tone down on any criticism of his administration.

But his detractors will have none of that and have taken an extreme stance to dismiss him in expletives with far-reaching negative connotations. To them, he is incompetent, wicked, hypocritical, and unsuitable for the Presidency. They accuse him of presiding over mediocrity and ceding his powers to faceless people in the corridors of power who are administering the country in his name. They see him as a puppet of others (no more Rawlings’ poodle?).

To worsen matters, they quickly write him off as physically (or mentally too?) incapacitated and not healthy enough to perform the functions of an Executive President as conferred on him. Some of these detractors have gone to the extreme of predicting that he might die soon from the cancer of the throat that they think has been sapping his energy all this while. In a plain language, these detractors wish him dead—as if his death will end all the calamity they face in life!

The challenges facing him are not in question. We know what the government has been able to accomplish and where it falls short.

High on the list of its positive accomplishments is infrastructural development, even if the pace is not as fast as one would expect. We all saw how President Mills used his recent regional tours to commission development projects all over the place, which attracted positive responses from the beneficiaries.

Other positive achievements will not be difficult to point to if one needs to do so. That’s why the government has been able to secure the country and made it possible for the peace and tranquility for which Ghana is known to be preserved and jealously guarded against destabilization. The constant reminder by the government that it will not shirk its responsibility to sustain that peaceful atmosphere is an affirmation of that accomplishment, which is key to President Mills’ quest for a second term in office.

Government’s failures are also obvious, which suggests that President Mills should brace himself up for a barrage of probing questions as seeks a renewal of his mandate. His government’s inability to fulfill its 2008 electioneering campaign promises is already checkmating its outreach efforts, just as the wranglings between him and former President Rawlings have deepened the cracks in the NDC and portrayed it as a divided house. But that’s an internal political matter that the ordinary Ghanaian may not really bother about provided he can get his existential problems solved. The situation seems not to be so, however, as we can tell from the constant scathing personal attacks on President Mills.

Top on the list of public complaints against the government is the high cost of living as a result of its inability to solve problems. This criticism suggests that the government’s handling of the economy (although given high marks by monitoring institutions, including the IMF/World Bank) is ineffectual. To the ordinary suffering Ghanaian, the favourable rating and hordes of self-satisfying statistics often adduced to suggest that the government is performing well don’t really confirm reality. For as long as those policies and programmes haven’t catalyzed a drastic revamping of the economy, no amount of praise-singing will portray President Mills as a problem-solver.

Indeed, the government’s management of the economy has remained worrisome, contrary to the stance of those praising its prudence. In fact, such criticisms indicate that there are lapses in many aspects, which accounts for the persistent high cost of utility services, unemployment, falling rate of the Cedi, low productivity, and many others. The conclusion is that under President Mills, the future is bleak.

The daily bashing of him by his opponents, led by the NPP activists, attests to the unfavourable light in which he is held. Of course, these are genuine complaints, which will be part of the factors for political decision making at the upcoming polls.

There is much for President Mills and his team to worry about because their opponents are quick to suggest that the government is not doing enough to build on the “gains” bequeathed to it by Kufuor. Indeed, this complaint informs their poor opinion of President Mills and is already causing havoc.

The overarching point being made is that President Mills isn’t doing enough to leave behind any lasting legacy. This is a genuine observation. A cursory glance at the records of his predecessors indicates that in one way or the other, they made lasting impressions on the country for which they continue to be remembered for weal or woe. Here are some moments.

The Great Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s lasting legacy cannot be washed away by the tons of calumny that his haters heap on him. It’s all over the country (and the entire world) for all to acknowledge. It is not surprising therefore that Nkrumah “never dies.” He ruled for 15 years.

Cast your mind round to trace the performance of those who came after him. Will we forget Dr. Busia’s Rural Development Programme (Busia ruled for barely 29 months)? Or Acheampong’s “Operation Feed Yourself” (even if short-lived or misdirected later on)? Or the numerous policies and programmes that his government put in place (conversion from left-hand to right-hand drive, institutionalization of measures to whip up patriotism—including the National Pledge—and many others in his 6 years of ruling the country)?

Or Rawlings’ raising of political consciousness, massive infrastructural development, and establishment of this 4th Republic (in his 19 years’ rule)? Or Kufuor’s social interventionist policies, especially the Schools Feeding Programme, road transportation, infrastructural development, and many more (in 8 years’ rule)?

In mentioning these major positive achievements of our past leaders, we will not be blinded to their failures too. The point is that as human beings, they played their part but fell short in many respects. That’s why whenever any of them comes to mind, something readily surfaces.

Who will overlook Nkrumah’s “Preventive Detention Act” or the wiliness of the Young Pioneers? Or Busia’s “No Court” and “Apollo 568”? Or Acheampong’s “Yen tua” and “Fa wo to be gye Golf” or the infamous Union Government (UNIGOV)? Or Rawlings and the excesses of his governments? Or Kufuor’s globe-trotting escapades and lackadaisical attitude to the fight against corruption?

Now, President Mills still has barely 11 months more to be tested at the polls. For what do you think he will be remembered? Or how do you think his leadership of Ghana fits into or diverges from the pattern already set by his predecessors to warrant his retention in office?

Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, January 5, 2012
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